Monte Alban

There’s a lot to see in and around Oaxaca, so when we got a good deal on a rental car we jumped on that and have been ripping back and forth across the city ever since. This morning we drove on up to Monte Albán, a nice looking archaeological site sitting high above Oaxaca on a ridge that was lopped off and leveled some 2,500 years ago—presumably without bulldozers.

We had a beautiful day (sun, high of 80, low of 55), which has really been the norm since moving inland from the coast. The kids were able to run wild and climb most everything—and what kid doesn’t love to climb on rocks that were piled up thousands of years ago? And generally, we were just able to enjoy a fun day out in a pretty beautiful setting.

However, there was one thing that Ali and I didn’t enjoy, and that was our kids’ bathroom habits. First Ouest had to go. We were about a fifteen minute walk from the bathrooms. I dutifully walked her there, all the while thinking to myself, “If there is one thing I won’t miss about the kids growing up, it is this.” The constant bathroom breaks at the most inopportune times.

Of course, ten minutes after we all met up again and were climbing around the highest point of the ruins Lowe yelled out, “Poooop!” He yelled this loud enough to alert the cleaning lady back in the bathrooms so that she could be prepared. Never mind that it had only been half an hour since we asked him repeatedly if he needed to use the bathroom. Ali turned to me and said, “I swear to god I am not going to miss this part of their childhood one bit.” At which point—above all other points in our past twenty-five years together—I knew we were meant to be together.

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Sometimes I look at our kids playing with their toys and I think, they really are a throwback to a more innocent time.

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Oaxaca has two distinct faces, at least from what we’ve seen so far. One face is around the Zócalo area. The town’s main plaza is not at all what we’ve come to expect in Mexico. In Oaxaca it is used as a place for protests, sit-ins, and generally showing ones disapproval with the government. It is, for the most part, not a very appealing place. Tents cover the grounds, garbage cans are completely absent, tarps hang from every available anchor, and numerous drunk men feel the need to try and interact with our kids.

But that’s just the zócalo. The city is much more than that. The streets in every direction from there are lined with food, fruit, and craft sellers. And once we got away a few blocks from there the sidewalks opened up a bit, everything looked a little brighter, and the mood felt lighter.
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A few short blocks from where we are staying in the nearby town of Santa María del Tule is the Árbol de Tule—the trunk circumference is 138 feet, by far the biggest trunk in the world. As we stood looking at it Ouest commented that she could see a lion in one of the gnarls which I thought was interesting because we hadn’t yet told her that the tree is also called the Tree of Life due to the images of animals that people apparently see in the trunk.

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The sign said that the common name of these green things is Old Balls. Hmm.


Summer is rainy season, which in most places just means that around four the sky clouds up and drops an hour of sprinkles. Which cools everything off quite nicely for the night. I don’t mind summers down here one bit.


We woke up to some fog which seemed perfect for wandering around the moss covered cemetery.


Then back to downtown Oaxaca. Ouest brought her own money today, determined to get a toy that we said no to yesterday. She still finds money on an almost daily basis. Just yesterday she found eleven pesos. If we get her a metal detector I’m sure she could start pulling in some serious bank for the family.


Nobody does over the top architecture like religion does. Not even rap stars.


We found this nice restaurant overlooking the plaza where the kids could rain down bubbles on the unsuspecting.


Every time Lowe would pull the trigger on this bubble maker his jaw would move in tandem. I thought for sure he’d be too sore to eat dinner that night.


It’s not every day that thirty pesos can bring this many hours of happiness to our kids.


Reminding myself that he is still just a little boy. His filthy fingernails after a day of play make me smile. He was out cold in my lap while Ali and Ouest did the grocery shopping.



South to Oaxaca

We spent another morning walking around Puebla before packing up and heading back to the bus. We thought Puebla was a nice city, but was lacking something for us. Pizzazz? I don’t know. Some places just do it for us and others don’t. We’ll miss that railroad museum, though.


Fingernail painting, and now she’s finally started to ask about getting her ears pierced. My little tomboy is growing up into a little girl.


Then there is this boy. The one who loves his mama above all else, and isn’t afraid to tell me about it. “Papa, I love you, but I love Mama the most.” Of course, I myself was probably ten before I stopped announcing that I was going to marry my mom. What boy doesn’t love their mama most of all?

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Rides in the Cholula plaza. Lowe always looks so serious when he is riding, but what he’s really doing is watching how everything works. Watching the wheels spin around. Watching the chain pull the cars. Questioning.

Lately he’s started asking us, “How do people make tires?” or “How do people make puppies?”


All done with Cholula we set off for Oaxaca, a marathon two-hundred and twenty-five miles to the south. All right, that’s not exactly a marathon on a well-paved toll road, but still, it’s way farther than we are accustomed to traveling in a day.

Highway 135D ran smack dab into these mountains, and for a good thirty minutes straight we climbed straight up in second gear. Not sure what the elevation hit, but my ears were popping.


Ali hates these types of roads, but I think they’re great. The rules are simple—drive as far over to the right as you can at all times, leaving about half a lane for cars and trucks to pass. Oncoming vehicles do the same thing. So basically, right down that middle line is a passing lane available to traffic in either direction. As long as nobody has their head to far up their ass it all works out great. In this case I was overtaking the slow truck while being overtaken at the same time by a car. Works for me. Ali, on the other hand…

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Pit stops were few and far between on this stretch of road.

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Next up, Oaxaca.


A Puebla Walk

Today was one of our typical days exploring a new city. We had breakfast and then just started walking, stopping in different plazas, grabbing food here and there, and checking out a few of the guidebook sites.

We walked by the Serdán’s house, where the first shots of the Mexican Revolution were fired, and where bullet holes still pock mark the building. After all of our years here in Mexico I find that I know far more about the Mexican Revolution (and also the War of Independence) than I do about any American wars.

This is all you need to see to know this lady can cook.


There is so much color in Mexico—far from the stereotypical dust covered adobe.

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The Bibliotecha Palafoxiana is possibly the first public library in the Americas, founded in 1646. Gorgeous, and really cool to see four-hundred-year-old books open and on display.

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Puebla is right down the road from the campground in Cholula, but we decided to grab a hotel room for a couple of nights anyway. We’re finding that it’s really the best way for us to explore a city properly, and with nice rooms going for good prices it’s a fairly easy decision.


People making-out in the plazas is the norm here in Mexico. You really can’t turn around in a busy plaza without seeing some friskiness.

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Tacos árabe. This is a Puebla thing, that I now wish would spread and take over the entire world. Arabic style tacos are simply tacos that have replaced the beloved tortilla with a Middle-Eastern flatbread. Combined with what had to be the juiciest pastor ever, it was incredible.


We found the train museum, which turned out to be what was probably our favorite museum of all time. Lowe was in heaven, racing from one train to the next. We couldn’t keep up. It’s fun when you see that spark of enthusiasm for something in your kids’ eyes. Ouest was digging it to. The museum was only about ten blocks from the center of town but contained probably sixty or more train cars, and it cost next to nothing. To top it off they had a great photography exhibit going on. This stop made our first day in Puebla a huge success.

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The zócalo, filled as usual by balloon sellers. If you’ve ever wondered how the world can be running out of helium look no further than Mexico’s plaza for an explanation. The plaza was packed in the afternoon despite it being a Thursday. Anxious to see what it’s like on the weekend.

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